Great News! We bought our first home and I have another opportunity to build an urban garden. This will be my second time creating an edible garden in the city of Los Angeles. Having experienced garden failures and successes during the first time around, I’m ready to tackle a larger project.
The new property sits on a hilltop with 0.2 acres of potential garden area. That’s an upgrade coming from a 300 sq. ft. backyard. We are renovating so we have another month or two before we move in. In the meantime, I am busy planning out garden layouts and fall crops.
I want to share this new journey with my fellow urban gardeners. Since I’ve been putting some time into garden research, I might as well share the knowledge. In this post, I want to share my initial garden planning process.
Where is the best place for a garden?
When starting a new garden, pick a spot that requires the least amount of work. This way, it’s easier to find the motivation to get started. If you don’t have to remove pre-existing structures or vegetation, it’s a plus.
Moreover, the optimal location for a garden are areas that have plenty of sunlight. However, if your space doesn’t see much of the sun, don’t fret. There are plants that grow in the shade. Last but not the least, it is important to build a green space near a water source.
I’m starting my new urban garden in the front yard since this area has a pre-existing raised bed. Besides a narrow strip of grass and succulents, its clean and garden ready.
Raised Bed or In-Ground Garden?
Since I like to experiment, you’ll see raised beds and in-ground plants in my urban garden. Whatever you decide, make sure that you are aware of the pros and cons. Let’s take look at some of the variables that can help you decide on which method to adopt.
Pro: 1) Better for smaller spaces, 2) less soil compaction, 3) warmer soil hence longer growing season, 4) less weed maintenance, 5) better drainage, 6) ideal on steep slopes and compact soils, 7) can minimize the spread of disease and insects, 8) easily accessible for people with back or knee problems, and 9) can reduce trampling accidents.
Cons: 1) Requires planning, 2) time consuming to build, 3) costly compared to in-ground gardens, 4) raised beds can fry under intense heat, 5) limited root growth, and 5) it requires frequent watering and an irrigation system.
Pros: 1) No need for additional soil, 2) less costly, 3) requires less work and planning, 4) less permanent, 5) requires less water, 6) protects roots from frying under intense heat, and 6) easier to irrigate.
Cons: 1) Weeds can take over, 2) harder to manage, 3) risk of trampling plants, 4) soil compaction, 5) less accessible for those with back or knee problems, 6) shorter growing season, 7) disease and insect can spread more easily, and 8) native soil may not be the best.
How to Pick the Right Plants
The right plants for your urban garden are dependent on variables including soil type, sun exposure, and season. For example, if planning to grow root crops, avoid compact soils. When growing delicate greens avoid overly sun-exposed areas. Daylight also get longer or shorter depending on the season. For some places, winters are too cold or frozen to grow anything. I’m fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles where I can grow year-round.
When deciding on what species of plants to grow, I also suggest looking at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This is because some plants are adapted or breed for specific climates. To make sure that your garden thrives, pick plant varieties according to hardiness zone. In my case, I am growing plants specific to zone 10a. Once you have figured out your zone, its easier to find planting calendars and guide.
Visiting local nurseries and garden stores is also a great idea. These establishments typically carry seeds and seedlings that are seasonal. They also have employees who are knowledgeable so don’t be shy to ask questions.
Starting an urban garden for the first time can be overwhelming especially when you don’t have experience. When I first started my green space, I came across some challenges and failures. These snags could’ve been avoided if I just did a little research. So, when you’re ready to start your own food, consider some of these pointers. They will go a long way in ensuring that your urban garden is productive.